Two days ago you could sense the impending change – the air smelled different, the colour softer/less glaring. Here in Nova Scotia there is one day in middle of August where you know autumn is not far off. When we were kids, we attended a six week sleep-over camp and in that last week there’d be a day when you knew summer was coming to a close. You felt the early morning chill, put on a warmer jacket that evening.
Every year on that August day I think of Alistair MacLeod’s short story “The Closing Down Of Summer” (in As Birds Bring Forth The Sun and Other Stories). I’ve mused about that story before. MacLeod begins:
It is August now, towards the end, and the weather can no longer be trusted. All summer it has been very hot. So hot that the gardens have died and the hay has not grown and the surface wells have dried to dampened mud. The brooks that flow to the sea have dried to trickles and the trout that inhabit them and the inland lakes are soft and sluggish and gasping for life. …
At the end of July we said to ourselves and to each other, “The August gale will come and shatter all of this.” The August gale is the traditional storm that comes each August, the forerunner of the hurricanes that will sweep up from the Caribbean and beat and lash this coast in the months of autumn. The August gale with its shrieking winds and crashing muddied waves has generally signalled the unofficial end of summer and it may come in August’s very early days. But this year, as yet, it has not come and there are only a few days left. Still we know that the weather cannot last much longer and in another week … the pace of life will change.Alistair MacLeod
Today it’s overcast and cool. The kids have all come through their summer camping experiences safely – they’re home again; sad summer is over, looking ahead to the adventures of a new school year.
My younger sister was moaning the other day about the shortening days. I think about the cosmic realities that govern our seasonal life. The earth’s tilt as it rotates around the sun affects the angle at which the sun’s radiation impacts the planet – the northern hemisphere is now entering the annual period where we’re angled away from the sun. Those shorter days are predetermined – out of our hands – set in motion when our solar system formed five billion years ago. No point in complaining, no point in wishing it were otherwise. The changing seasons bear witness to our connection to the universe.
The chicory/goldenrod/Queen Anne’s lace, are abundant, but coming to an end – in another six weeks we’ll see trees responding to the seasonal change. There are warm days still to come – our Nova Scotia fall is the loveliest of our seasons. I look forward to it every year.